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The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions; New edition edition (5 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840224037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840224030
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Anne McWhir’s edition of The Last Man is first rate...Shelley herself would have been pleased!" -- Charles E. Robinson, University of Delaware --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

The Broadview Editions series is an effort to represent the ever-changing canon of literature in English by bringing together texts long regarded as classics with valuable, lesser-known literature. Newly type-set and produced on high-quality paper in trade paperback format, the Broadview Editions series is a delight to handle as well as to read.

Each volume includes a full introduction, chronology, bibliography, and explanatory notes along with a variety of documents from the period, giving readers a rich sense of the world from which the work emerged. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on 9 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley published "The Last Man" in 1826, eight years after her classic "Frankenstein" and four years after her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley died. Of all of her other novels, "The Last Man" is clearly the one that is of more than passing interest. In her Journal in May of 1824 Shelley wrote: "The last man! Yes, I may well describe that solitary being's feelings, feeling myself as the last relic of a beloved race, my companions extinct before me." The result was one of the first novels to tell a story in which the human race is destroyed by pestilence, which we have seen in novels from Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" and Stephen King's "The Stand," and films such as the recent "28 Days Later..." However, "The Last Man" is also an early example of a dystopian novel set in the 21st century when England is a republic being governed by a ruling elite. Adrian, Earl of Windsor (and a representation of Shelley's late husband) introduces the narrator of the tale, Lionel Verney, who is the required outsider to describe and comment upon the world of the future.
Shelley's vision of the future is essentially a reaction against Romanticism and the failure of the movement to solve the problems of the world with art and imagination. This would stand in contrast to earlier English utopian works such as Francis Bacon's "The New Atlantis," which reflected the Age of Reason's belief that science would solve any and all problems. Shelley begins the story as a romance, with Lord Raymond (presumed to be modeled on Lord Byron) winning the hand of the lovely Perdita and being elected Protector. In contrast to the dire predictions of Thomas Malthus regarding unchecked population growth resulting in mass starvation, an ideal world seems to have been created.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
I found this rather a chore to read. Mary Shelley is a great evocative writer. However, the dense opacity of much of the text, its, for the most part, slow pace and, especially, the complete absence of any remotely believable three dimensional characters (they're all handsome and noble heroes and beautiful ladies), were problems for me. Also, from a modern perspective, the portrayal of 2090s society fails totally, as there is no technology (e.g. all long distance travelling is by sailing ship or sailing balloon). The social structure is entirely the same as that of the 1820s except that England is a a republic, though rather a strange one where all significant characters are nobles, including the son of the last deposed king. All this said, the tragic last section, where the surviving population diminishes from 1500 to 80 to 50 to 4 to 3 then finally to Lionel Verney, the Last Man, is hauntingly and movingly described. Reading the Introduction afterwards, which covers the author's motives, helped somewhat with my comprehension of the work.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By John David Charles Hilton on 26 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Last Man" has always been completely overshadowed by the ever-present "Frankenstein" and as a result has been largely ignored by the reading public. This is a great loss as it is in some ways as great a work as its illustrious and much filmed and parodied predecessor.
"The Last Man" was written in the period following her husband Percy Shelley's death.
Set in the twenty-first century, it was enormously influential on the development of English science-fiction, particularly on HG Wells (see "The Time Machine", "The Island of Dr Moreau" and "The Invisible Man"), Olaf Stapledon and, less obviously, Arthur C Clarke (see "Childhood's End").
Central to the book's philosophical approach is a rejection of the romanticism of Lord Byron, whom she knew well, and her late husband. It blends astute political observation, a complex tale of doomed love and obvious portraits of PB Shelley and Byron into its subtle, melancholy mix. It is beautifully written and rewards both initial reading and, even more, re-reading. This Oxford edition is well documented with an excellent introduction. The cover picture is wonderful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. De Gruijter on 19 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
Mary Shelley's apocalyptic fantasy was harshly reviewed in her own time, so it's not surprising that some of those contemporary criticisms re-echo today. Yes, it is overdrawn and too verbose in places, it falls apart halfway into two completely different stories, perhaps too long and too ambitious for its own good.

For these reasons it's a difficult book to read, but then this read needs the proper investment to get most out of it. There are truly inspired visions, interspersed with Gothic contraptions that almost sound comic, and as the end nears you start to feel for the characters, making the emotional impact ever so strong.

I enjoyed this book, but was puzzled by the editor's introduction. How she has read some sort of anti-Romantic manifesto in this is beyond me. On the contrary, The Last Man seems to a fierce confirmation of the first-generation Romantic worldview. One of the most important elements of this view is the idea of history developing in circles, through crises and catastrophes, alienation and recognition. The beginning of the book suggests that the events are not part of the future, but of a history (to come?).

At one point the editor says that the book rejects the Romantic faith in the redemptive power of art. Her only evidence for this is partly quoting a passage in which the solitary protagonists walks the halls of an empty building and turns away in disappointment from the indifferent statues. However, read in context one sees that these are the statues of saints who have lost their capability to inspire while there are no more people left to lend them credibility. Ultimately, the book ends in hope, Nature is not the destroyer, and the protagonist embarks on his journey into the unknown bearing... books.

Usually I'm no fan over the over-laboured introductions to classic works, but this misguided one slightly marrs this edition.
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